Problems in Different Healthcare Systems
Patients from different countries are currently restrained from the most effective treatments by different factors. Below are different problems that occurred in the medical systems from different countries that prevent patients from receiving most effective treatments, and thus adversely affect their treatment outcomes.
Regulatory approval of newly developed drugs can often take more than 2 years after the drug was first approved in North America or Europe (1). For example, more than 20 new anti-cancer drugs had been approved in U.S. in 2015 and 2016, but none of these are available in China. These drugs had been shown to be superior than existing therapeutic agents. The delay in drug approval process thus prohibited patients from receiving the most effective treatments.
Despite significant increase in investment in healthcare, resources are still scarce in hospitals in China. This resulted in a lack of advanced medical equipments and well-trained medical doctors in most hospitals, and thus leading to poor treatment outcomes in China. According to China Cancer Registration Center and the Cancer Prevention and Control Office, only 30.9% cancer patients in China survived more than 5 years after initial diagnosis, and whereas 70% of cancer patients survived more than 5 years in U.S. (2). The huge disparity in the five-year survival for cancer in China and developed nations like US is due to the lag in drug approval and medical technology in China.
Similar to China, the drug approval process in Hong Kong is extremely long and there is an average of 2 years delay in regulatory approval of new drugs as compared to North America and Europe (3). The delay in drug approval and unavailability of the more effective drugs limit the treatment outcomes of patients.
Canada adopted a socialized public healthcare system. Due to the limited healthcare budgets and low efficiency of the system, wait-time for medical procedures is unacceptably long in hospitals in Canada. However, as there is no privately-run hospital in Canada, patients' sole option is to endure the long wait time for medical treatments. For instance, the wait-time for a Computerized Tomography (CT) Diagnostic Scan can be as long as 92 days in Toronto (4), and cancer patients can wait up to another 68 days for surgical procedures after confirmation of diagnosis (4). The long wait-time does not only lead to disease complications and adversely affect disease outcome, but also results in unnecessary pain to the patients.
(1) Bloomberg News. (2014). Foreign Drug Companies in China See Approval Delays. Bloomberg. Available: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-12-07/foreign-drug-companies-in-china-see-approval-delays
(2) Liu, Jiaying. (2014). China’s cancer-survival rates lag far behind developed countries. MarketWatch. Available: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinas-cancer-survival-rates-lag-far-behind-developed-countries-2014-11-06
(3) Tsang, Emily. (2015) Patients forced to wait up to 24 months for new drugs to be approved in Hong Kong, as experts call for simpler system. South China Morning Post. Available: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1853881/experts-call-hong-kongs-drug-approval-system-be
(4) Ontario Wait Times. (2016). Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term care. Available: http://www.ontariowaittimes.com/Surgerydi/en/PublicMain.aspx?View=0&Type=0
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